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"Fitting the customer": leather that fits like a glove.

Owning a gun that fits your hand is very important -- if the gun doesn't fit right, your customers won't shoot very well. If your customer purchases the gun for self defense, however, they'll spend much more time carrying the gun than they will actually shooting it.

For this reason, when you are selling a holster, it's very important to make sure the customer has a product that will work properly. A high-priced pistol in a $10 special holster will degrade the perceived value of the gun itself the first time it slips out of the holster and lands on the ground, gets stuck when the customer is test drawing it, or snags and rips an expensive piece of clothing.

If you make a policy of selling your customers the best possible gun they can afford, don't sell them short in the holster department. This month Massad Ayoob discusses some easy methods you can use to make sure your customers walk out the door with a holster that fits just right.

If you were sold a car you couldn't get comfortable in and couldn't drive well, would you buy another car from the same dealership or tell your friends or relatives to buy one there? Of course not.

The same is true of your customers. Sell them something that works for them day in and day out, and you've won their loyalty and their constant referrals. Sell them something that doesn't, and you've lost their business for good.

In past issues we've discussed the whole fit concept related to defensive firearms and focused on rifles and shotguns, revolvers, and semi-automatic pistols. This time around, lets zone in on holsters.

Any professional pistol packer can tell you that choice of holster system may be even more important than choice of gun in terms of comfort, accessibility, confidence, and "survival quotient" when the sidearm must be worn long hours every day. The "Monster Mart" at the Mall can sell anybody a .25 auto they can wear all day, but people come to you instead of them for professional advice. Customers want to be able to comfortably carry a .45 or a high-capacity 9mm for hours on end without being appreciably inconvenienced.

Holsters are like shoes: you want to sell quality. The $20 ones are uncomfortable and have to be replaced frequently...the $50 ones are much more comfortable and give service that is not only longer but better...and the $100 or more products last for years on end. The latter give pride of ownership, self-confidence, comfort, and above all, performance -- and the owners always seem to remember, recommend, and do more business with those who sold them that kind of product.

What Fits Best?

Like shoes, the holster has to be fitted to the individual customer if the whole thing is to be a success for all concerned.

Let's look at some baseline rules.

* First-time buyers like shoulder holsters for their devil-may-care image. The fact is that most shoulder holsters work poorly for most men in general and are almost unmanageable for big men with broad shoulders or muscular arms.

Interestingly, shoulder holsters are among the best choices for women. They are less likely to have to take their covering garments off in the office or in a restaurant, have relatively narrower torsos and proportionally longer, more limber arms, and more appreciate the self-suspending nature of a holster that doesn't require male-oriented pants, belts and belt loops.

* Inside-the-waistband holsters are the best for concealment. However, most of your customers won't be able to make them work without you giving them some cogent advice.

Your customer bought his trousers to fit him. The waistband now contains him and a holstered gun, and perhaps a magazine pouch. No wonder he finds it hellaciously uncomfortable and blames you for it.

Tell them about this up front. Advise them to wear the gun inside the waistband for the first week, with the top button of the lower garment undone, and with that fact hidden under a belt that has been let out a notch. Unless they're extremely overweight, they'll probably find they can carry quite comfortably and with the best discreet concealment they've ever enjoyed. For now, they'll go about letting out their waistband and, as they gradually replace their wardrobe, they will buy garments with a waistband two inches larger than normal. They'll thank you for bringing them into a new dimension of comfortable gun concealment.

* If you're selling hip holsters, remember: cross draw works better for women, and strong side behind the hip better for males, for well documented anatomic reasons.

* Make sure any belt holster is accompanied by a quality dress gunbelt if at all possible. Most top makers now have designs that are narrow enough to make the pages of Esquire, while mating to same-brand holsters that work perfectly. A $100 holster worn on a cheap, flimsy belt gives less concealment and a poorer draw than some guns simply shoved in the waistband.

* Sell the customer a holster that is secure. A gun inadvertently falling out of a holster can get the customer killed, maimed, arrested, or humiliated, depending on how malevolent the Holster Gods are feeling at that particular moment. Guess who gets blamed for the debacle?

* Make sure the customer knows how to wear the holster. A man should conceal a hip holster behind the hip; without you giving him that advice, he may mount it on the ileac crest where it will chafe, be embarrassingly obvious, and be awkward to draw from. An elastic belly band goes level with the belt, not above it as in so may of the makers' own catalogs. Level with the belt, it is comfortable, fast, and so invisible it often escapes a mugger's pat-frisk. Worn high, the belly band is as uncomfortable as a hair shirt and more obvious than a colostomy bag.

* Don't sell an ankle holster to a person who can't reach it, or who wears peg-bottom pants. Remember, the defensive handgun is life-saving emergency rescue equipment. If you sell emergency equipment they can't access, you might be not only morally guilty for bad things that happen to them, but liable civilly under law.

* Know how to demonstrate the equipment, and make sure your employees do, too. For example, the Rogers/Safariland SS-III/070 holster is perhaps the most secure weapon-retention duty holster going. The cop on his own budget, or the security guard, who comes into your shop may be eager to pay the $100-plus retail ticket to own one, and it may one day save his life, but if the demonstrator can't get the gun out of the holster, that customer won't buy. You may lose the sale.

If a week later a criminal gets the gun out of this person's current junk holster someone else sold him, will you be ready to look at yourself in the mirror the next morning?

Throwing A Fit

Fit. We want cars that fit, clothes that fit, furniture that fits. It goes without saying that your customers want guns and holsters that fit.

We, and they, look better, feel better, and perform better with things that fit. We, and they, look better and feel better and perform better with things that fit. We are grateful to those who make that possible, and we give them more of our business and enthusiastically refer out friends to them, too.

It's something we have to address. The seller exists to serve the needs of the customer, and won't exist long if he doesn't. In the case of the defensive firearm, where fit equals performance and performance can equal the difference between life and death, fitting the customer properly goes beyond good business sense and becomes an ethical responsibility.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Ayoob, Massad
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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